Friday, September 13, 2013
The Pumpkin Spice M&Ms are a Target exclusive this year (just as the Candy Corn M&Ms were also exclusive their first year at WalMart). The package is cute and was easy to spot at the store. It features the orange M&M character looking like a pumpkin.
The flavor is not pumpkin pie itself, but the spices used to turn pumpkin custard into a seasonal dessert. Traditional pumpkin spices are a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice, and/or mace. The ingredients for these M&Ms are vague, just listing “artificial and natural flavorings” at the end of the list.
The pieces are, for the most part, the mega size. They’re larger than a standard M&M and come in three colors in the package: dark brown, orange and green.
The flavor is overwhelmingly cinnamon. Though they smell like chocolate, they taste like chocolate milk sipped in a room with too many Christmas-scented candles. The candy shell is crispy and the milk chocolate center is, well, a bit fudgy and grainy. I think I prefer the size of the regular M&Ms, since the chocolate is merely passable. In this format the amount of sugar easily overwhelms the chocolate.
I didn’t actually notice that much of a difference from the previous limited edition Cinnamon M&Ms from two years ago. Maybe a little more note of clove. I would have preferred more of the nutmeg and ginger spices than the Tic Tac notes of cinnamon candies.
Pumpkin Spice seems to be a pretty hot flavor these days (though the Hershey’s Kisses version has been around since 2008), a lot of seasonal candies are being released (see list below of previous reviews). If you like Spiced Chai or cinnamon in general, it’s a great time to pick up this twist on old candy favorites. If not, wait a few months and the Candy Cane and Egg Nog versions will emerge.
Finally, with all the crazy flavors of M&Ms that have come out over the years, I’m a loss to why they’d go with something like peanut butter and jelly before coffee.
Monday, September 9, 2013
Candy Corn is brilliantly simple and captures the essential nature of corn itself very well. Corn (I mean dent corn, not the fresh-eating sweet corn) is ubiquitous and exceptionally versatile; it can be used to create oil, sweeteners, cereals, starches, feeds and even plastics.
Candy Corn reflects that versatility well, in that it looks like food, but it is much better at boosting the appeal of other foods as a decoration or merely a side dish to more appealing things. Like corn in our everyday lives as North Americans, it’s everywhere at Halloween. Candy corn is a fondant, and fondant is basically a butterless, chocolateless fudge. It’s just sugar and corn syrup, sometimes flavored with a bit of honey and sometimes held together with a bit of gelatin or egg white.It’s kind of sad that candy corn has become some sort of punchline to jokes about reviled foods, but it must have lovers or at least likers, or else candy companies wouldn’t make so much of it.
Wrigley’s seems to have latched onto the seasonal quality of candy corn for their new Starburst Original Fruit Flavored Candy Corn but discarded most of the other qualities of candy corn. They’re brightly colored, fruitly flavored unlike normal candy corn. The only thing that remains is the triangular shape and layering of colors.
Each candy is three tiers of one of the Original Starburst flavors: cherry, strawberry, orange and lemon. All have white tips, light centers and dark bases.What’s particularly odd about them is that they’re flavored the same on all levels. At the bottom of the bag was a bunch of the little white tips that had broken off and they were absolutely just as flavorful as the colored bottoms. The other thing is they’re not a traditionally “flavored” mellocreme. The others that I’ve had are usually light - maple or cocoa flavored perhaps, or with mild fruit essences. The Starburst Candy Corn is going for true Starburst juicy flavor - sweet, fruity and tart.
Cherry was the darkest red. It tasted quite strongly of that artificial cherry that Life Savers and Starburst share. There’s a sharpness towards the end and an overall pleasant tartness. The texture is good, it’s soft and though it doesn’t quite melt in your mouth, it’s smooth. The flavor lingered, again, medicinal and artificial.
Strawberry was pink and had a similar sort of medicinal quality like the cherry. It wasn’t floral or jammy, just artificial tasting.
Orange was like a creamsicle, sweet but tart enough that it had a sort of aspergum finish to it. This too had a lingering aftertaste, kind of like yogurt or soured milk.
Lemon was probably the most successful, but that’s not saying much. The lemon had a hint of zest but mostly was like a lemon sherbet flavor.
On the whole, I found them a pleasant experience, but I was left wondering why I was eating them. I didn’t like the flavor variety, the aftertaste was odd and the tartness distracted from what is usually a very mild and comforting candy. I think to celebrate the season, I’ll just form my regular Starburst Chews into little triangles and enjoy them that way.
Starburst has really extended their fruit chew brand in a lot of ways. There are or have been jelly beans, lollipops, drinks, gummis and now mellocremes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Starburst gum, red licorice type chew or chocolately Tootsie Roll styled product. Only time will tell.
The ingredients do not list any eggs or gelatin, which I found surprising. It does list confectioners glaze, which usually means shellac so it’s not a vegan product.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Halloween is the first Holiday in Candy Season. The variety of candy is not quite as remarkable as Easter or Christmas, because most candy is just smaller sizes of single serve products for easy distribution for Halloween trick or treaters. It’s interesting to see what the new and returning products are each year.
The big trend seems to be seasonal flavor combinations. The notable ones are Candy Corn (now in jelly bean, gum drop, chocolate covered & novelty flavors) and Caramel Apple (lollipops, Milky Way bars, Werther’s hard candies, Sugar Babies).
I haven’t seen much that’s new this year, but I did visit most of the stores in my area to see what’s on the shelves, here’s my hitlist of the highlights:
FARLEY’S & SATHERS (BRACH’S)
(review) Now available in snack packs for Trick or Treat
NESTLE & WONKA
So what have you seen that’s new or what’s missing that you’ve been looking forward to?
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Mars doesn’t have much this year for Halloween, aside from the usual Harvest colors of M&Ms. I was interested to see that there was a new version of the Snickers Pumpkin from the previous time I tried it. (Review here.)
There are two package types for the Snickers Pumpkin. They come individually wrapped as seen here, or, more interestingly, in a 2 To Go wrapper like the King Size packages. It looks like a regular Snickers bar, but the background is black and has some pumpkins on it. It’s the same price as a King Size bar (which usually has 3.29 ounces in it), but has only 2.2 ounces in it.
The big difference that’s noticeable out of the wrappers is that this is a molded product. The Reese’s Pumpkin is enrobed (coated) where this one is build upside down, with the pumpkin shaped shell created first, then the fillings squirted in and the base of chocolate added last.
A regular Snickers bar is also a layered product, but ultimately is coated via a conveyer moving under a curtain of chocolate, enrobing the bar. The ratio of chocolate to filling on that bar is such that the filling is the star, the chocolate is a device that keeps it all together. In the Snickers Pumpkin, the chocolate shell is most notable.
It smells sweet, milky and nutty. The center is soft, but doesn’t have the same caramel chew or plethora of crunchy nuts that a standard Snickers does. It’s overwhelmingly milk-chocolatey, which is fine if you’re into Snickers bars because of the quality of the chocolate. I am not. I find it a bit grainy, overly sweet and lacking a strong cocoa punch. The light touch of salt is good, it’s the only thing balancing out the sugar blast.
I’ll probably stick to the Minis, which have very little chocolate on them (though not much in the way of nuts).
Mars is in the process of moving towards 100% sustainable and ethically sourced cacao, but they’re going with their higher end products first, like Dove. The Snickers Pumpkin contains peanuts, soy and milk plus is made on shared equipment with tree nuts and wheat.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
They say, “Combining the irresistible tastes of chocolate, rich and creamy caramel and apple, this new item brings a unique, new flavor to trick-or-treating, decorating and snacking.”
I had a tough time finding them in Los Angeles, but spotted them at CVS in Pennsylvania last week and managed to stash a bag in my luggage before leaving.
The Minis part of the Mars line is rather interesting. They’re far smaller than a snack sized bar, taken out of the mylar wrappers, you could easily tuck them in little fluted cups and put them in a candy box.
Each piece is .3 ounces (or 8.6 grams) and about 38 calories. They’re .8 inches square (a little shorter than a cube, about .7 inches tall). A suggested serving size is 5 pieces for 190 calories.
The big difference between the mini and the regular bar is the proportion of chocolate. The chocolate here is a thin veneer, just enough shell to hold the fillings.
The candies look no different inside than a normal Milky Way Mini. (Not like those Shrek Snickers which had green nougat.) This is comforting, as the candy smells more like apple pie a la mode than green apple Jolly Ranchers.
The scent has a light touch of milk and sweetness along with a hint of cinnamon and baked apple. The caramel and nougat are distinct layers. The nougat is a little on the mellow spice size, with notes of nutmeg and chai. The caramel seems to be where the apple flavors come from, more like apple cider and apple peels than an artificial apple flavor but it’s exceptionally mild.
Of all the formats for Milky Way, I prefer the mini, as it’s not too sweet and three can satisfy me quickly. I was not looking forward to this version, but was pleasantly surprised. That’s not to say that I thought they were transcendent and there are far better flavor combinations that I think would translate well to this, like Chai Spice.
For a Green Halloween for ethically sourced and clean ingredients, this candy doesn’t make the grade. Mars is making great strides towards using certified chocolate, starting in the US with their Dove line, but has not rolled it out in the Milky Way line in the US as yet.
Monday, October 31, 2011
Here’s what I’m giving out for Halloween this year. I decided that it was more important to take a stand against child slavery in West Africa than give out the most loved objects of Halloween, such as Snickers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Hershey’s, Nestle and Mars have had more than 10 years to assure consumers that they’re not buying from growers that enslave children on their cacao plantations. When they have, then I’ll start giving it out to children.
So to avoid this issue completely I bought sugar candy - that is, candy made without chocolate.
Airheads - multiple flavors of chewy fruity flavors. Made in Kentucky, USA.
What I lack in chocolate, I’ll likely make up for with quantity and variety. We usually only get between 25 and 40 visitors. With more than 300 pieces of candy, each kid gets a heaping adult-dispensed handful. And it won’t melt. (Yes, it’s still in the 80s here this week in Los Angeles.)
So what are you giving out for Halloween this year?
Monday, October 10, 2011
Russell Stover has epitomized Americana for as long as I can remember. They’re a safe and unassuming brand. Their boxed chocolates are dependably sweet and bland but have a nice flair for dependable and fresh holiday themed chocolate novelties.
I was a little surprised when I saw these new Russell Stover Day of the Dead Skeletons at the drug store.
They have two varieties, one chocolate covered caramel and one chocolate covered marshmallow - but what’s interesting about them is the South of the Border design on the package (bilingual as well).
I’ll start with the Russell Stover Caramel Covered in Milk Chocolate (Caramelo Cubierto en el Chocolate con Leche).
They’re large skeleton shaped caramel planks covered in milk chocolate, the package features a brightly clad skeleton. There are at least three different designs per confection. For the Caramel I chose this lady skeleton wearing a red blouse with poofy sleeves, a green full skirt, a yellow yat with dingleberries and holding maracas. It’s quite a sight, especially when designed with bright flat colors and accents of purple, orange and silver foil.
The pieces are large, about twice the size as the regular Pumpkin products they make. The Caramel was 2.5 ounces and about 4.5 inches long.
The design of the actual candy is not quite as impressive as the package. In fact, once I pulled it out of the wrapper, you could have easily convinced me this was a Halloween Saguaro Cactus. But shape aside, it’s a really lovely piece of candy. The chocolate is nicely tempered, it’s shiny and had very few scuffs and no leaks. The ripples were also nice to look at and gave a feeling that this was a piece of candy made by people.
The caramel is soft, but not runny. The bite is easy and the caramel has a good pull but not a lot of chew to it. It’s smooth and has a lot of toffee notes and very little grain. The milk chocolate is sweet and has a lot of dairy notes though not much going on other than that.
It’s a lot of candy - I couldn’t eat more than a third in one sitting, so it’s not an easy piece to have a little and then put it away.
It’s not an innovative piece, they make a similar product for Easter, but it’s fresh and I really loved the package.
The Russell Stover Marshmallow Covered in Milk Chocolate (Malvavisco Cubierto en el Chocolate con Leche) has an equally vibrant package design. I chose a skeleton wearing a sombrero and bright poncho beating on a magenta and yellow drum.
This piece is only 2.25 ounces, missing a quarter of an ounce because the marshmallow is so fluffy, but probably about 50% thicker than the Caramel version.
The shape is similarly blocky and poorly defined, but still has glossy rippled milk chocolate enrobing.
The Russell Stover marshmallow is always moist and smooth, fluffy but not too foamy. It doesn’t have much flavor, no honey notes but a good vanilla extract finish. It’s a clean tasting candy - everything tastes real - real sugar, real milk, real vanilla. It’s comforting and homey.
The Day of the Dead celebrations of Mexico are vibrant, social and life-affirming. It’s fun to see a confection here in the United States that feels like it’s appealing to those who want to join in the celebration without feeling like it’s exclusionary or pandering. I don’t know if these are going to be sold everywhere, I picked them up in the Echo Park neighborhood RiteAid, one of the denser areas of Mexican-Americans in the country and over 6 million people of Mexican descent in the Southern California metropolitan counties. Next, I’d like to see the inclusion of some real Mexican confectionery traditions.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Candy Corn is a sugar confection made by depositing different colored layers of fondant into the shape of a narrow triangle. The flavor of candy corn is muted but often bears notes of honey, marshmallow and occasionally butter. It’s created with starch molds and the most common color layering puts yellow as the base, orange as the center band and white as the small tip. It’s an American candy, originating in the 1880s with dozens of manufacturers now in North America. The molded fondant confection is generically called Mellocreams and can come in a variety of shapes, often lightly flavored and colored.
The first thing I noticed as a trend was Candy Corn appearing out of season with other names or color variations. As a kid, I remember there were two kinds of Candy Corn. The standard yellow, orange and white and then the Indian Corn variety that was brown (a little cocoa flavor), dark orange and white. But later on came Reindeer Corn which comes in red, green and white. There’s Bunny Corn that comes in pastels and sometimes I see Cupid Corn for Valentines that’s red, pink and white.
More recently Gourmet Candy Corns have come along. They’re not really superior in any way to classic Candy Corn, they’re just different color varieties and flavored like Egg Nog, Candied Apples, Green Apple, Tangerine, Cherry, Pumpkin Spice and Toffee.
Mars makes M&Ms White Chocolate Candy Corn. They’re white chocolate centers with a light, sweet flavor covered in candy shells in three colors: orange, white and yellow.
Level of Candy Corn-ness: 5 out of 10
Jelly Belly introduced Jelly Belly Candy Corn Jelly Beans earlier this year. Too bad they couldn’t get the stripes on them.
Level of Candy Corn-ness: 5 out of 10
Vidal, a maker of fascinating gummis in unusual shapes, created a rather unique take on Candy Corn with their Puffy Candy Corn. It’s a foamy gummi that’s actually more fruity flavored than generic sweet fondant is.
Level of Candy Corn-ness: 8 out of 10
For several years Hershey’s issued Hershey’s Candy Corn Kisses, a butter flavored white confection. The shape was a natural for Candy Corn treatment, too bad they didn’t go with the honey flavors and real cocoa butter.
Level of Candy Corn-ness: 8 out of 10
Last year was the first for Whitman’s introduction of the Candy Corn Marshmallow. It’s a large triangular marshmallow covered with “white confection” in two colors.
Level of Candy Corn-ness: 4 out of 10
Dots, made by Tootsie, have been a bit edgier and hipper lately. Their Halloween offerings are spot on, with Ghost Dots and Blood Orange Bat Dots. Of course their Candy Corn Dots also make this list. They’re just vanilla Dots, but cute as buttons.
Level of Candy Corn-ness: 9 out of 10
The level of Candy Corn-ness is evaluated on the basis of the following attributes: stacked color, colors, flavor, scale, and shape.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.